Learning to make compost at home is a simple way to green your home and save money.
If you make your own compost, you can recycle your waste and make your own fertilizer.
It’s a win-win!
Here’s what you should know.
1. What is composting?
Composing is the process of recycling organic matter like leaves and food scraps into a valuable fertilizer.
This fertilizer can enrich soil and plants.
2. What are the benefits of composting?
Compost can seem like a bit of a hassle to people who don’t do it.
First, recycling…now composting.
Why would you go from throwing everything in the trash to sorting every single item that you’re trying to discard and attempting to make your own fertilizer?
Composting might take a bit of additional effort, but it has all kinds of advantages.
Here’s why you should give it a shot.
Compost is a soil conditioner
By making compost at home, you’re essentially creating a rich fertilizer that adds nutrients to your plants and helps retain soil moisture.
Compost recycles kitchen and yard waste
You can divert around a third of your household waste from the garbage can by composting.
Because so much of that waste is currently sitting in landfills, many people wonder why organic matter isn’t able to decompose and return to the Earth there.
Organic matter in the landfill lacks the air it requires to decompose quickly.
Instead, harmful methane gas breaks down and increases the rate of global warming and climate change.
Compost introduces beneficial organisms to the soil
The microscopic organisms in compost help to aerate the soil and break down organic materials for plant use.
It also you to ward off plant disease.
Compost is good for the environment
Composting provides an alternative to chemical fertilizers, which is better for the environment.
Compost reduces landfill waste
Did you know that most of North America’s landfills have already closed down?
Additionally, one-third of landfill waste is compostable materials.
We can truly make the Earth better by diverting this waste.
3. What can you compost?
What you can compost will depend, in part, on what type of composter you have (see below for more information).
However, there are some general guidelines when it comes to what you should include when you make compost at home.
Compostable materials are either carbon or nitrogen-based.
Here’s what you should try to compost.
Carbon-rich matter gives the compost a light, fluffy body.
These materials include branches, stems, some dried leaves, peels (without pesticides), bits of wood, bark dust, sawdust, shredded brown paper bags, corn stalks, coffee filters, coffee grounds, conifer needles, eggshells, straw, peat moss, wood ash.
Nitrogen or protein-rich matter (such as manures, food scraps, green lawn clippings, kitchen waste, and green leaves)
This material allows your pile to make enzymes.
Your compost should have more carbon than nitrogen.
You should use one-third green and two-thirds brown as the rule of thumb.
The bulkiness of the brown materials allows oxygen to penetrate and nourish the organisms that reside there.
If you add too much nitrogen to your mile, then it’ll create a dense and smelly mass that decomposes too slowly.
If in doubt, add more carbon!
4. What can you not compost?
Some items are perfect for your compost bin, but there are some items that don’t belong.
Here’s what you should avoid putting in your compost bin.
Meat, bones, or fish scraps
Why? They’ll attract pests unless you’re using a composter designed for this purpose.
Perennial weeds or diseased plants
Why? You might spread weed seeds or diseases accidentally when spreading your compost.
Why? If you’re planning to use your compost on food crops, then you don’t want to include any pet manure in your compost.
Banana peels, peach peels, or orange rinds
Why? These food items can include pesticide residues, so you don’t want to put them in your compost.
Black walnut leaves
Why? These leaves are toxic, so you don’t want them in your compost.
Sawdust in clumps
Why? You can add sawdust to compost, but it should be mixed in or scattered thinly to avoid clumping.
Additionally, you should make sure any sawdust that’s added is clean without machine oil or chain residue from cutting equipment.
Here’s a wider list of items:
- Dry leaves (unless they have a relatively neutral pH)
- Newsprint pine needles
- Straw and hay
- Wood chips
- Shrub trimmings
- Shredded copier paper (uncoated)
- Coffee grounds
- Crab/fish waste
- Fruit/vegetable scraps
- Grass clippings
- Fresh hay
- Manure: cow, horse, poultry, sheep, rabbit
- Cooking oil
- Dairy products
- Peanut butter
- Salad dressing
- Cleaning solvents
- Petroleum products
- Synthetic fabrics
- Wood ashes
5. How do you compost?
Are you wondering where to start?
Here’s an easy way to make compost at home.
Start your compost pile on bare earth
Your compost bin should never have a bottom.
You should also put it directly on the earth so that worms and other beneficial organisms can aerate the compost for you.
Lay twigs or straw first
Start with twigs or straw at the base of your pile.
This helps to aerate your compost pile and also aids drainage.
Add compost material in layers
Alternate moist and dry items.
Think of moist ingredients like food scraps, tea bags, seaweed, etc.
Think of dry ingredients like straw, leaves, sawdust pellets, and wood ashes.
Ashes or sawdust should always be sprinkled in thin layers, so they don’t clump together.
Otherwise, this can slow the breakdown.
Green manure that is — such as clover, buckwheat, wheatgrass, grass clippings, or another nitrogen source.
This activates the compost pile and speeds the process along.
Cover anything you have
To help the compost develop, you must allow it to retain moisture and heat.
Covering it is essential.
Keeping your compost covered can also help to prevent it from being overwatered by rain.
Though your compost should be moist, it shouldn’t be soaked or sodden.
You should turn your pile every few weeks with a shovel to aerate the pile.
Oxygen is required for the process to work, and this aeration process adds oxygen.
If you’re readily adding straw, then you can skip this step.
That said, this is one of the biggest chores when it comes to compost.
Some people prefer a “no-turn” method.
If this is you, make sure to have straw on hand as this will allow the compost to develop as fast as if it were turned regularly.
6. How do you make compost at home?
While composting is becoming more and more popular, it’s not taught in all classroom science curriculums.
Many people aren’t clear on how to make compost at home.
In short, food and yard wastes are combined with oxygen and moisture.
During the composting process, microorganisms eat the organic waste which contains carbon.
It breaks it down into its simplest parts.
The result is a fiber-rich, carbon-containing humus with inorganic nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
7. Why should you make compost at home?
Compost is greatly beneficial to the environment.
It significantly reduces the amount of waste heading to landfills.
Most municipal waste can be composted as it’s comprised of 13 percent yard waste, 12 percent food waste, and 34 percent paper waste.
Additionally, compost is a free soil amendment that saves gardeners the money used to buy alternatives.
Instead of purchasing fertilizer, vermiculite, peat moss, etc., you can use compost which will improve soil tilth, aeration, water-holding capacity, and a wide range of plant nutrients.
Most types of soils will benefit from the regular addition of compost.
Especially because compost can suppress soil-borne diseases.
This makes compost good for the environment and sustainable for the Earth.
The entire family can join in on creating a compost pile right in your backyard.
8. What type of compost container should you use?
To make compost at home, you must choose the right composter.
There are three different primary types:
This type of composter is an enclosed bin that’s meant to handle a variety of materials including everything from yard waste to kitchen scraps.
You can add material at any point which is why they’re called continuous composters.
Compost is generated slowly, and the finished compost is usually found at the bottom of the bin.
You can remove it a few times a year.
These composters are sealed with a lid, keeping rodents and other critters out.
We recommend continuous composters for anyone who wants to toss kitchen scraps, garden weeds, or yard waste into their composter and forget about it.
It’s easy to use and low maintenance.
These composters are efficient machines that use a tumbling mechanism to generate compost.
Each batch starts with a balanced mix of ingredients, and within 4 to 8 weeks, the batch can be done.
This type of composter is the fastest way to create compost; however, it must be turned daily and checked for sufficient moisture.
Thus, it’s much more high maintenance than other types of composters.
That said, you can work on stockpiling materials for the next batch in an open bin, pile, or continuous composter while a current batch is cooking.
We recommend batch composters if you’re looking to make compost at home faster.
If you’re willing to put in a bit more effort and planning, then this may be a good option for you.
Indoor composter (such as a worm composter)
You can also compost indoors if you’d like to.
However, you’ll need to do it on a much smaller scale.
Most people who do this are looking for a compost bin that can accommodate kitchen scraps so they can repurpose them into compost for their garden or houseplants.
You may also hear these referred to as worm bins.
We recommend indoor composters for people who want to compost their kitchen waste.
You may also want to try this out for a classroom setting if you have students interested in learning about compost for a science unit.
If you plan to store compost in your kitchen until you’re ready to transfer it to your composter, then you should keep a container with a lid and handle under your sink.
We recommend a stainless-steel composter pail with a carbon filter or a similar ceramic model.
This will help to cut down on any odors.
If you don’t mind the occasional smell, then you could also consider using an old ice cream pail.
Remember to chop any large chunks before you put them in.
9. What are 10 easy steps for making a compost heap at home?
Use the guide above to choose the right container to make compost at home in your allotted space.
Ideally, you should have a grassy, relatively shady part of your garden available.
You should also make sure that the container doesn’t have a bottom so that the heap touches the ground.
Additionally, the container should be the right size for your family, so it fits everything you need to dispose of.
However, it shouldn’t be too big either.
Create the proper base for your compost pile with branches and twigs at the bottom.
This will allow your pile to naturally aerate.
You want to create the proper balance in your compost pile through an equal balance of nitrogen, carbon, water, and air.
Keep in mind that nitrogen is found in green materials while carbons are found in brown matter.
Before you put items into your compost pile or container, make sure you break up or chop any chunks of large matter.
Include as many items from the “what to compost” list as possible.
This will help you create a successful compost pile.
Avoid all the items on the list above “what not to compost.”
You don’t want to add anything to the pile that will attract pests or rot.
Additionally, any highly processed foods will take longer to break down.
If you’ll be adding scraps regularly, try to bury them under the pile that’s already begun to break down rather than adding throwing them on top.
Once a week, use a spade or shovel to mix the materials.
This will allow the pile to aerate slightly.
Just like a plant, you must water your compost periodically.
You’ll know that your compost needs moistening when it looks a little dry.
If you live in a dry place or you have particularly dry weather, then you should consider covering your pile to help it retain moisture.
After these 10 steps, you can use your compost after a few months.
You’ll know it’s ready to go when it turns a dark brown color and develops an earthy smell.
It should also be warm to the touch.
All these signs mean microbes are living inside.
Everyone can improve the world through their daily actions!
Learn how to make compost at home and begin diverting your waste from landfills.
Every little bit counts!
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